When Chartered EHP Amanda Clarke found evidence of slavery in a rural Derbyshire takeaway, it tested all her resources emotionally and professionally. This is her story:
“Finding slavery once was bad enough, but to find it a second time was heartbreaking.
“The first time was during an inspection at a takeaway in Grassmoor. I went round the back during prep time and a man came down the steps from a mezzanine in a shed where the freezers were kept. Something didn’t seem right, so I asked if he was living there. He said yes.
“I went up and found a mattress, a bucket with faeces and urine in it, and some food. The man had lived there over the winter.
“I told the food business operator (FBO) there was no way that man could sleep there any longer and went straight to the police station in Chesterfield. The next thing I heard, police had removed the man and deported him.
“A couple of years passed. During that time I started working with Dave Stockdale, an investigator from the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority, on a housing project financed by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government. I got to know him well.
“Then, during a routine food visit at the takeaway in Grassmoor I found evidence of someone living in the mezzanine again: a mattress, a pillow, clothes in the wardrobe and Chinese medicine in the drawer.
“I thought, ‘Oh no, it’s back.’ There was a man working in the kitchen who wouldn’t make eye contact with me and kept his head bowed. I got angry and told the FBO to his face what a cruel man he was. Or was he? Was he being exploited from elsewhere? I got in touch with Dave and we arranged to visit the takeaway together.
“We managed to sit down with the man during that visit, even though he tried to hide when we arrived. We got an interpreter on the phone and the man admitted to being trafficked. He gets no pay, just a room, and he begs on the streets. Immigration and the police took it from there. I heard that the man has been moved into the flat above the takeaway, but I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
“I’ve been asked if I feel guilty about telling the police about these people. Yes, I do. But conditions in a detention centre have got to be better than living in a shed and begging on the streets.”
This is adapted from an article that appeared in the May issue of EHN (login required)